Week 12, Negotiating for the Segment
We left our heroes in the pantope, wondering how to talk the crystals into giving us their diadem segment, which they call "the Agency" or "the Instrumentality."
Chris speculates that we might ask the crystals if we could come back and take the "Agency" when they're done with it. Of course, they might NEVER be done with it, and if it takes thousands of years, that gives the worldbenders a wide window in which to find and seize it.
Sophie has a souvenir crystal, a shard of the crystal golem we encountered in Eastmarch. She wonders if it would be something we could trade for the segment.
Tom notes that, although the crystals say they "create their own purposes," they don't seem to have been doing much lately. Might they be, as it were, bored? Might we offer them passage on the pantope and the mission of saving causality in return for giving us the diadem segment? But this looks a lot like inviting invasion, and anyway, would they be any more willing to part with the segment once they were aboard?
We need more information. Lorelei has offered to do a Deryni-style probe of the "Instrumentality," just to make sure it really is the segment. She suits up and steps out into the shuttle, still parked at the edge of the crystal patch. Tom comes with her, contacts the crystals, and introduces her. She asks to examine the Instrumentality and promises not to damage it; if she starts to interfere with it, she will quit, and would much rather be told to quit than to be punted several parsecs without warning. The crystals agree to this.
Lorelei flies in and probes. Yes, the Agency is definitely the same flavor of psi as the diadem. A scrying also tells her that the surrounding crystals were recently damaged, probably in the fire-fight we gave the Kendorini.
Tom asks the crystals what they use the Agency for. Most things. They are still exploring its capabilities. Oh. (Too bad. This makes it harder to offer something of comparable worth in trade.) Tom asks about the proposed deal of putting the crystals into contact with the Elders, their creators. they think that would be nice, but would not want to conflict with any purposes of the Elders themselves by thrusting themself (the crystals) on them (the Elders).
We all go back to the pantope to confer some more. Would contacting the Elders be such a great idea? They had pantope-level technology, and what if they turned out to be nasty?
Chris looks over Sophie's golem crystal with psychic senses and hi-tech equipment. It isn't nearly as complexly organized as the bits of the sentient crystals we've examined, although it has a lot of interesting psychic residues. It seems to be a nice souvenir but nothing more.
After a fair bit of discussion, we categorize our choices as Attack, Steal, Recruit, and Bargain. We don't like the look of any of them, and the reason is always lack of information. So we should get some more. Sophie and Chris think that playing games with the crystals would be a good way of getting information about their psychology.
So they suit up and go out with Tom, who once more performs introductions, then bows out. Chris asks them if they DO play games. Yes, but not in a long while. They were looking forward to playing games with themself after they got out of "threat avoidance mode."
Chris asks what threat this means. They mention being tossed out into a vacuum by a bunch of organics. We construe this to mean that the Kendorini teleported them out into the void, whereon they ran away to this planet and merged with the crystals here.
In pursuit of "threat-avoidance," the crystals are busy growing, balancing and expanding the local ecology, and so forth. Hence the greenery and fauna around this part of the planet. The crystals also remark that living creatures are good sources of purpose. How true.
Chris assures them that the Kendorini are unlikely to find them here, at least for a long time. He goes on to describe the Kendorini ideology, which the crystals describe as "the single thrust approach," and condemn (?) by remarking that the creators considered and discounted it long ago.
Chris then goes on to tell the crystals of OUR purpose, in very general terms, of denying the diadem (of which their Agency is a part) to the worldbenders, who want to make themselves inevitable, to the detriment of intervening history. The crystals class worldbender strategy as "the unification approach" and remark that it, too, is dubious, having many inherent uncertainties. So far, we're getting on famously with the crystals, at least as far as cosmic politics goes.
However, the crystals are still not eager to turn over the segment. How can we trust the Captain, for instance? Good question, agrees Chris.
On the other hand, if the worldbenders are looking for this same segment and are such a mean bunch (as the crystals can read in our minds, if they wish), "then possession of the Instrumentality is NOT threat-avoidance," they reflect (and refract) among themself. They add further that the Elders left in order to avoid some great threat, perhaps of the same sort as posed by the worldbenders. So perhaps helping us against the worldbenders would be helping the Elders.
They remark that the Agency was given them by an organic creature. Can we identify that person? Using Glamour and Telepathy, Sophie and Chris present the crystals with images of the Captain. Nope. How about the mysterious and world-spanning Henderson? Nope. How about Elias of the Golden Boar. Bingo.
How interesting! Chris relates our own encounters with Elias. The crystals decide they would be willing to surrender the Agency to Elias or his agents. Yeah, sure, that's us! They want to be more certain of our credentials. Tom suggests we go get Elias himself, since he gave us some coordinates for that very purpose. The crystals say that would be fine.
Accordingly, we retire to the pantope and punch in the numbers Elias gave us. The door opens on the odd, curve-walled room where we last saw Elias, just before he delivered us to the top of Gorlach's tower. Chris, Lorelei, and Sophie enter the room, while Tom stays at the pantope helm.
No one else is there. There are two doors, two podiums, a table, some chairs, and some display cases. The cases contain an incredible hodge podge of things from many worlds and ages. Just as the three start peering at them, Elias enters with a knapsack and luggage. "Oh damn! An hour already! I should have been packed and gone by now!" Gee, nice to see you too, Elias.
The three explain the situation with the crystals and Elias agrees to help. But he'd rather use his own magic doors than travel in our rattle-trap. Accordingly, Tom gives him the coordinates of the crystals' world and disconnects. Elias and the others open their door right on top of Tom's door but we soon sort this out.
After Elias learns why the crystals aren't where he left them and are bigger, Chris presents him to the crystals. ("I believe you've met.") Elias enters into some kind of psychic communication with them, using a psionic widget at his belt, then he and Chris fly to the center, where the segment/Agency/Instrumentality sits. Elias touches the crystal and the deeper blue tinge vanishes. He has a segment in his hand. He touches the segment to the crystal and leaves a purple spot.
"A baby Instrumentality?" Chris asks. "Sort of. I wanted to leave them SOMETHING. Get this to your pantope as quickly as possible." Right. On the flight back, Chris asks if Elias has hidden any other segments. "That would be telling." sigh Well, could we have another set of coordinates to meet you at? It is Elias's turn to sigh, but he gives us a set for half an hour later.
He vanishes into his door and we vanish into ours. We call the shuttle back in and disconnect. We now have nine of the thirteen segments. Chris telepaths the partial diadem and gets another set of coordinates. Four to go.
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.